New York Daily News

January 12, 2003

NYPD faces force cutback

By FRANK LOMBARDI and PAUL H.B. SHIN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Looming layoffs could shrink the NYPD's head count to its lowest level in a decade.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said last week that he might have to hand out as many as 1,000 pink slips to cops and forgo hiring another 500 this year while he tries to trim $94 million more from next year's budget.

Kelly already was on track to reduce the department's force to 37,210 by June 30 through retirement and attrition.

Cutting 1,500 cops on top of that would shrink the NYPD's head count to about 35,710 - the lowest since 1993.

Faced with a $3 billion shortfall in the fiscal year that starts in July, Mayor Bloomberg has prodded the police and other municipal unions for cost-saving concessions.

The mayor warned on Friday that cops are not immune from the budget ax - but said concessions could help avoid layoffs.

"Everybody's going to have to share in this," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show, which is broadcast on Fridays. "There is nothing sacred. We don't have that luxury. It would be nice to say that there are sacred cows, but there are not."

But watchdog groups said trimming the force could lead to new spikes in the crime rate.

Learning from the past

"The last time we had police layoffs, it took 15 years to recover," said Thomas Reppetto, president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission, referring to the city's fiscal crisis in 1976.

Pink slips are not the only way to remedy red ink, budget observers said.

"It may not be a bad bargaining tactic, but there are other ways to save money," said Charles Brecher, research director of the nonprofit commission.

He cited a December commission report that said the Police Department could save $250.9 million by making cops work more tours, reducing their washup time and paying straight time for overtime work.

Kelly is expected to unveil specific belt-tightening measures tomorrow, including how many cops to lay off.

But during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board last week, Kelly said the budget ax will fall harder on the Police Department's special units because the city must keep street patrols at current strength.

"When you pick up the phone and you call 911, you need somebody to respond. That is the core function that we have to keep going," Kelly said.

At its peak in March 2001, the Police Department had 40,710 uniformed officers. The buildup and better police tactics - including crackdowns by special units - have been credited with lowering city crime rates to their lowest levels in three decades.